|French Civil Code
BOOK I. Of Persons
of entire Code
Decreed 8th of March, 1803. Promulgated 18th of the same Month
Of the Enjoyment and Privation of Civil Rights.
Of the Enjoyment of Civil Rights.
The exercise of civil rights is independent of the quality of citizen, which
is only acquired and preserved conformably to the constitutional law.
Every Frenchman shall enjoy civil rights.
Every individual born in France of a foreigner, may, during the year which
shall succeed the period of his majority, claim the quality of Frenchman;
provided, that if he shall reside in France he declares his intention to fix
his domicile in that country, and that in case he
shall reside in a foreign country, he give security to become domiciled in
France and establish himself there within a year, to be computed from the
date of that undertaking.
Every child born of a Frenchman in a foreign country is French. Every child
born in a foreign country of a Frenchman who shall have lost the quality of
a Frenchman, may at any time recover this quality by complying with the
formalities prescribed in the ninth article.
A foreigner shall enjoy in France the same civil rights as are or shall be
accorded to Frenchmen by the treaties of that nation to which such foreigner
The foreigner who shall have married a Frenchman, shall follow the condition
of her husband.
The foreigner who shall have been permitted by the government to establish
his domicile in France, shall enjoy in that country all civil rights so long
as he shall continue to reside there.
A foreigner, although not resident in France, may be cited before the French
courts, to enforce the execution of engagements contracted by him in France
with a Frenchman; he may be summoned before the tribunals of France, on
account of engagements entered into by him with Frenchmen in a foreign
A Frenchman may be summoned before a French court, for engagements
contracted by him in a foreign country, though with a foreigner.
In all causes, except commercial ones, in which a foreigner shall be
plaintiff, he shall be required to give security for the payment of the costs
and damages incident to the suit, unless he possess in France immoveable
property of value sufficient to guarantee such payment.
Of the Privation of Civil Rights.
Of the Privation of Civil Rights by the Loss of the Quality of Frenchman.
The quality of Frenchman shall be lost, 1st, by naturalization in a foreign
country; 2d, by accepting, without the authority of government, public
employments bestowed by a foreign power; 3dly, by adoption into any foreign
corporation which shall require distinctions of birth; 4thly, in short, by
any settlement made in a foreign country, without intention of return.
Commercial establishments shall never be considered as having been made
without intention of return.
A Frenchman, who shall have lost his quality of Frenchman, may at any time
recover it by returning to France with the sanction of government, declaring
at, the same time his intention to settle there, and his renunciation of
every distinction inconsistent with the law of France.
A Frenchwoman, who shall espouse a foreigner, shall follow the condition of
If she become a widow, she shall recover the quality of Frenchwoman,
provided she already reside in France, or that she return thither under the
sanction of government, and declare at the same time her intention to fix
The individuals who shall recover the quality of Frenchman or Frenchwoman in
the cases provided for by Articles 10, 18, and 19, shall not be permitted to
avail themselves of it until they have fulfilled the conditions imposed upon
them by those articles, and only for the exercise of rights open to their
advantage after that period.
The Frenchman who, without the authority of the government, shall engage in
military service with a foreign power, or shall enroll himself in any foreign
military association, shall lose his quality of Frenchman.
He shall not be permitted to re-enter France without the permission of the
government, nor to recover the quality of Frenchman except by complying with
the conditions required of a foreigner in order to become a citizen; and
this without affecting the punishments denounced by the criminal law against
Frenchmen who have borne or shall bear arms against their country.
Of the Privation of Civil Rights in consequence of Judicial Proceedings.
Sentences to punishments, the effect of which is to deprive the party
condemned of all participation in the civil rights hereafter mentioned,
shall imply civil death.
Sentence to natural death shall imply civil death.
Other perpetual afflictive punishments shall not imply civil death, except
so far as the law shall have attached that consequence to them.
By civil death, the party condemned loses his property in all the goods
which he possessed; and the succession is open for the benefit of his heirs,
on whom his estate devolves, in the same manner as if he were naturally dead
He can no longer inherit any estate, nor transmit, by this title, the
property which he has acquired in consequence.
He is no longer capable of disposing of his property, in whole or in part,
either by way of gift during his life, or by will, nor of receiving by
similar title, except for the purpose of subsistence. He cannot be nominated
guardian, nor concur in any act relative to guardianship.
He cannot be a witness in any solemn public act, nor be admitted to give
evidence in any court. He cannot engage in any suit, whether as defendant or
plaintiff, except in the name and by the intervention of a special curator
appointed for him by the court in which the action is brought.
He is incapable of contracting a marriage attended by any civil
If he have previously contracted marriage, it is dissolved, as respects all
civil effects. His wife and his heirs shall respectively exercise those
rights and demands to which his natural death would have given rise.
Peremptory sentences only import civil death, reckoning from the day of
their execution, whether real or by representation.
Condemnations for contumacy shall not import civil death until after five
years from the execution of the sentence by representation, and during which
the condemned party may make his appearance.
Those condemned for contumacy shall, during five years, or until they shall
make appearance, or until their arrest during that period, be deprived of
the exercise of civil rights. Their estate shall be administered and their
rights exercised in the same manner as those of absent persons.
When the party under sentence for contumacy shall appear voluntarily during
the five years, to be reckoned from the day of the execution, or when he
shall have been seized and made prisoner during that interval, the judgment
shall be entirely reversed; the accused shall be restored to the possession
of his property; he shall be tried afresh; and if by the new judgment he is
condemned to the same punishment or a different punishment equally drawing
after it civil death, it shall only take place from the date of the
execution of the second judgment.
When a party condemned for contumacy, who shall not have appeared, or who
shall not have been made prisoner until the expiration of the five years,
shall be acquitted by this new judgment, or shall only be sentenced to a
punishment that does not carry with it civil death, he shall be reinstated
in the full enjoyment of his civil rights for the future, reckoning from the
day on which he shall have reappeared in court; but the first judgment shall
extend, as regards the past, to all consequences produced by civil death
during the interval which elapsed between the period of the expiration of
the five years and the day of appearance in court.
If the party under sentence for contumacy dies during the five years
interval of grace without having appeared, or without having been seized or
arrested, he shall be deemed dead as to the entirety of his rights; judgment
of contumacy shall be reversed entirely without prejudice nevertheless to
the action of any civil plaintiff, which shall only be entered against the
heirs of the party condemned according to the civil form.
In no case shall efflux of time (prescription) after sentence restore a
party condemned to his civil rights for the future.
Property acquired by an outlawed person, after incurring civil death, and of
which he shall be found possessed at the date of his natural death, shall
belong to the nation by right of disherison. Nevertheless the government
shall be allowed to make for the benefit of the widow, children, or
relations of the party condemned, such disposition respecting it as humanity
Code Napoleon; or, The French Civil Code. Literally Translated from
the Original and Official Edition, Published at Paris, in 1804. By a
Barrister of the Inner Temple. Translation attributed to George Spence (cf.
Cushing's Anonyms: A Dictionary of Revealed Authorship and Halkett &
Laing's Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature and in
the Dictionary of National Biography). London: Published by William
Benning, Law Bookseller, 1827. xix, 627 pages.